2012 - 2013 Talks

2012-2013 Talks:


Date: 5 June 2013

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS

Speaker: Dr Renee Richer

Title of Presentation: Plants of the Q’uran and the Bible

Summary of Presentation

An introduction to a number of local species of plants and a discussion of their religious role as referenced in the Q'uran and Bible.  The significance of the references and imagery derives from the intimate knowledge of, understanding and relationship of people with plants hundreds and thousands of years ago.

Speaker Bio: 

Dr. Renee Richer joined Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar in January 2007 where she teaches introductory biology. Dr. Richer received her BA in biology from the University of Chicago and her PhD in biology from Harvard University in 2004. Dr. Richer joins WCMC-Q from the position of assistant professor and Director of the Environmental Conservation and Research Center of the American University Armenia. There she taught environmental science and ecological economics. Her work with bird life in Armenia was recognized by the Whitley Award, the UK’s largest conservation award. Her current work focuses on the intersection of biological processes, conservation and sustainable development.


Previous Talks:

Date: 1 May 2013

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS

Speaker: Dr Juris Zarins

Title of Presentation: Women, Politics and Power among the Pre-Islamic Bedouin

Summary of Presentation

For years people have wondered about the Queens of the Arabs who were described in Assyrian texts (800-600 BC).  Given that today men dominate public politics among the bedouin, the question has never been given a satisfactory answer.  Looking at the remarks and pictures of the various travellers who have described the markab, or throne, among the bedouin and the women who seem to have been closely associated with them, I suggest that the Assyrians were describing a similar phenomenon of women who appeared to them to be wielding actual political and military power. This phenomenon of the Queens of Arabia now makes more sense when we consider the most famous queen of Arabia - the Queen of Sheba and her contacts with Solomon.

Speaker Bio: 

Dr Zarins received his PhD at the University of Chicago Oriental Institute (1976) on the topic of equid domestication in the Ancient Near East prior to 2000 BC. He taught Near Eastern Archaeology at Missouri State University from 1979 until his retirement in 2006. He has served as archaeological advisor to both the Government of Saudi Arabia (1975 – 1985) and the Sultanate of Oman (1993 – 1995, 2007 – 2012). He has conducted extensive fieldwork in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman, as well as in Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Amongst his many interests are the uncovering of the rich past of the Arabian peninsula, as well as the peninsula’s relationship to surrounding regions. He has presented many scholarly talks on the international stage since 1967 and has authored a number of scientific papers on Arabian archaeology.


Date: 17 April 2013

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS

Speaker: Dileep Kumar

Title of Presentation: Wings over Qatar

Summary of Presentation

Dileep Kumar will show some of his wonderful photographs of birds, all taken in Qatar. He’ll also discuss cameras and equipment, composition, use of natural light and let us into the secret of where to go to take the best shots.

Speaker Bio: 

Dileep comes from Thrissur District in Kerala, and has worked in the Offshore Engineering Projects Department of Qatar Petroleum for seven years. He started to take photographs of birds only about six years ago, and is now out with his cameras very early in the morning most weekends. In 2009 he received international recognition when his photo of a Greater Spotted Eagle reflected in shallow water, taken at the Abu Nakhla lagoons, was placed among the top five out of 39,387 entries in BirdGuide’s online Photo of the Year. This stunning photo was featured on the BBC World News website. As well as photographing birds in Qatar, Dileep also visits famous bird reserves in India and other regions of Asia when on leave to take pictures. For several years he and other bird photographers in Qatar have held annual exhibitions of their work in shopping malls.

Dileep has contributed images not only of birds but of other wildlife to a range of publications, including a coffee table book on Halul Island and feature articles by Fran Gillespie for Qatar Airways’ inflight magazine Oryx. He has also contributed many of the photographs in Fran’s series of six books for children, Qatar Nature Explorer, published by Bloomsbury in April, and of the 33 photographs in the book on birds in the series, 30 are by him.


Date: 6 March 2013

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS

Speaker: Hala Kijani

Title of Presentation: The Hima: A Way of Being

Summary of Presentation

The hima, meaning protected area, is a traditional resource management system practised by Arabian tribes for more than 1400 years  Himas have mainly been associated with settled pastoral/agricultural Arab communities rather than nomadic. These communities use the grass and fodder contained in himas wisely to feed their animals by applying a strict system of sustainable use and preservation.

There are different methods applied in himas but they all carry the name of their custodian tribe. To their traditional custodians, himas represent heritage. They share the tribe's identity and name and their violation is the violation of the tribe's honour. Tribes, particularly the elders, are linked to their himas by uneasily breakable and strong threads of emotional attachments.

Over the years, himas multiplied and spread geographically within the Arabian Peninsula and beyond to reach places known today as Syria, Yemen, Oman and Lebanon. However, they witnessed a marked decline during the 20th century onwards following the discovery of oil in the region. Basically, one material culture replaced another and one economic system prevailed over another.

Conservation scientists regard the hima as possibly the longest standing nature conservation system on earth, which testifies to the concept's success ingredients. Himas are seen as comprising thought processes, philosophy and technology that modern conservation is still trying to achieve after costly trials and errors worldwide.

Today, some conservation professionals and people active in the business of environmental protection are calling for hima “revival” in a “hybrid” form that retains some practices from the past and integrates modern approaches. However, they make this suggestion with total disconnection from the field and the communities that still retain the few remaining himas, which reflects a romantic and nostalgic viewpoint rather than a realistic one.

Speaker Bio: 

Hala Kilani is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at the University College London researching the traditional nature conservation systems which have been practised by tribes in the Arabian Peninsula for more than 1,400 years.  She obtained her MA in anthropology from the same university in 2009 after researching in the field the traditional resource management system hima practiced traditionally in Saudi Arabia.

In parallel, she works as a consultant in sustainable development and indigenous rights projects. She is currently the Outreach and Public Engagement Director at the 18th Convention of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that was held in Doha Qatar in 2012. She has worked with the forest people (hunters and gatherers) in Cameroun, Central Africa through the Forest People Programme and in various conservation initiatives in the Middle East, including at the West Asia Middle East office of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In addition to material culture, anthropology, sustainability and development, her background includes environmental journalism.

Date: 6 February 2013

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS

Speaker: Dr Richard Cuttler, Director of the Qatar National Historic Environment Record [QNHER]

Title of Presentation: The Work of the QNHER including Recent Excavations on Prehistoric Sites in Qatar

Summary of Presentation

Richard Cuttler has spent much of the past 13 years working on projects in the Gulf region. In Qatar he has worked on excavations at Al Khor Island, and has since worked on several Neolithic projects in Kuwait and the Rub al Khali. In 2009 he returned to Qatar with a team from Birmingham to collaborate on a remote sensing project with the Department of Antiquities. The project pioneered the development of the new Qatar National Historic Environment record, which is the first of its kind in the region, and now holds data on more than 5,000 archaeological and heritage sites in Qatar. This has also formed the basis for the analysis of remotely sensed data from the marine and terrestrial areas of Qatar which has been examining the prehistoric landscapes of the Gulf that would have existed prior to sea level rise. Richard will also be discussing the results from recent excavations on prehistoric sites in Qatar and their regional significance.

Speaker Bio: 

With over 25 years’ experience in archaeology,  Richard has worked on projects in Norway, Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, directed many projects in the UK and more recently, directed projects in Libya, The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. He has met with a lot of success in  obtaining major grants for archaeological research projects, and has provided consultancy and advice for archaeological mitigation on major infrastructure projects in Europe and Asia.

In April 2005 he received an award from His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Education, Abu Dhabi, for his contribution to scientific research in the United Arab Emirates.

Over the past four years he has been responsible for the development of the Qatar Historic Environment Record (QNHER) and Remote sensing project. Within terrestrial areas the project is concerned with the location and characterization of sediment traps and archaeological sites for research and Cultural Heritage Management. Within the off shore areas of Qatar the project is using marine geophysics to map submerged landscapes and investigate the wider sequence of events that shaped the present-day Arabian Gulf

Date: 9 January 2012.

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS

Speaker: Steffen Bach

Title of Presentation: Giants meet in the Gulf : the Whale Shark aggregations in Qatar

Summary of Presentation

Please see here Article from Gulf times: Download link

 Speaker Bio: 

Steffen Bach is a marine biologist from the University of Copenhagen working at the Maersk Oil Research and Technology Centre located in the Qatar Science and Technology Park. He is part of the Qatar Whale shark Research team and collates whale shark observations and data from the Al Shaheen field. 
To complement the day trips conducted with the Qatar Coast Guard Maersk Oil sponsored a two week whale shark expedition in June 2012 on one of their supply vessels. The expedition was documented by Myriad Global Media and the movie is to be presented later this year in Doha. The BBC Natural History Unit has also filmed the sharks and they will feature in the “Wild Arabia” series that is to be completed in 2013.   
In September 2012 the Qatar Emiri Air Force assisted the QWSR in the first aerial whale shark conducted in the Arabian Gulf.

Date: Wednesday 5 December 2012.

7.00 pm meeting start, DESS

Speaker: Dr Christian J. Strohmenger

Title of Presentation: The Famous Abu Dhabi Sabkha: Stromatolites, Evaporites and a Whale

Summary of Presentation

Lateral and vertical sabkha sequences studied along the Abu Dhabi coastline in the vicinity of Al-Qanatir Island and at Mussafah Industrial Channel are unique modern day geologic examples that add greatly to the interpretation of features observed in core and outcrops deposited many millions of years ago.
The lateral sabkha sequence displays supratidal (upper, middle, and lower sabkha), intertidal (microbial mat) and lowermost intertidal to shallow subtidal (lagoon and tidal-channel) facies belts. Radiocarbon age-dating of ten hardground and three microbial mat samples show an age range from approx. 3,500 years before present (supratidal environment: subsurface hardground) to approx. 900 years before present (intertidal environment: subsurface microbial mat); thereby supporting the seaward progradation of the facies belts since the last Flandrian sea-level highstand.
The sabkha sequence at Mussafah Channel formed during the post-glacial Flandrian transgression, resulting in the reworking of Pleistocene aeolian dunes (radiocarbon age approx. 24,000 to 23,000 years before present) and the deposition of intertidal to shallow subtidal Holocene microbial mat, rooted and microbial-laminated lagoon, tidal-channel, tidal-delta, and longshore beach bar and beach spit deposits (approx. 6,600 to 5,000 years before present).  Recent find of whale bones within tidal-channel deposits overlying the microbial mat further document the initial Holocene transgression.  During a subsequent slight sea-level fall (regression), these carbonates were partly to completely overprinted (replaced) by gypsum and anhydrite.
Significant amounts of dolomite were found within the rooted and microbial-laminated lagoonal carbonates, the subsurface and surface crinkly-laminated microbial mats, some of the tidal-channel deposits, and within some of the Pleistocene carbonate-rich sands. The dolomite is very fine-crystalline and displays spherical morphologies as well as subhedral to euhedral dolomite rhombs. The formation of dolomite is interpreted to be related to dolomite-mediating microbial organisms which form the widespread microbial mat along the Abu Dhabi coastline.  Organic molecules like extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) are interpreted to play a key role in dolomite mineralization processes.

Speaker Bio: 

Dr. Christian J. Strohmenger has been with ExxonMobil Research Qatar, Doha, since 2011 as Team Lead and Geological Advisor at the Qatar Center for Coastal Research (QCCR). He received a Diploma in Geology from the University of Giessen (1983) and a PhD in Sedimentology from the University of Heidelberg, Germany (1988). From 1989 to 1990 he worked as a Research Assistant in carbonate sedimentology and sequence stratigraphy at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.  He joined BEB Erdgas und Erdoel GmbH, Hanover, Germany (now ExxonMobil Production Germany, EMPG) in 1990 working as a Carbonate Sedimentologist and Seismic Interpreter. From 1996 to 2002 he was with ExxonMobil Exploration Company in Houston, Texas where he worked on Mesozoic and Paleozoic carbonate and sandstone reservoirs of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. He was seconded to Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO), United Arab Emirates in 2002 working as a Carbonate Stratigraphy Specialist until 2009.  From 2009 to 2010 he worked for ExxonMobil Oil Indonesia, Jakarta as a Carbonate Advisor. His main interests are carbonate sequence stratigraphy, sedimentology, and reservoir quality prediction. Christian is a member of AAPG, SEPM, GSA, IAS, and QGS.

Wednesday 7 November 2012,   
7:00pm meeting start, DESS

Speaker: Prof. Moain Sadeq, Department of Humanities, Qatar University 

Prof. Moain Sadeq, Department of Humanities, Qatar University

Title of Presentation: Architecture and Art in transition: from Pre-Islamic to Islamic periods.
Summary of Presentation:The presentation will discuss the emergence of the Islamic city in term of planning, architecture and decorative elements starting with prototypes in the pre-Islamic periods, particularly during the Byzantine and Sassanid periods.  It will then recall characteristics of the Pre-Islamic-Islamic transitional period and finally highlighting relevant Muslim innovations in late Islamic periods.
In addition to cases from Iraq and Egypt, the lecture will discuss Qatar examples from Al-Zubara and Murwab archaeological sites and will shed light on the Museum of Islamic Art as a modern building, in which medieval Islamic architectural and decorative elements have been employed.
Speaker Bio: Dr. Moain Sadeq is professor of history and archaeology at Qatar University. He taught previously at the University of Chicago and the University of Toronto. His major interests are in Islamic history and archaeology, art history, history of architecture, urbanism, peoples and cultures of the Middle East, women and gender in Ancient and Muslim Worlds.
Dr. Moain’s publications are multi-lingual. He published a book on the Mamluk history and architecture (in German) and a series of papers in English in peer reviewed journals. His most recent publications (in April and May 2012) are “the Mamluk architecture and related arts as evidence of state stability and administration in Egypt and Syria” and “Unpublished Mamluk Blazons and Mottos on Glazed Pottery at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada”
In addition, Dr. Sadeq has excavated in various sites in the Middle East, including archaeological sites in Gaza (1995-2000) and at the sites of Al-Zubarah and Murwab in Qatar between 1980 and 1984. He organized international historical and archaeological exhibits, including one in Qatar National Museum in 1996. He volunteered in awareness programs, producing cultural documentaries and participated actively in bridging cultures and fostering mutual understanding. He is an elected board member of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and member of the American Historical Association.
He received numerous awards from from Aurea Foundation (Toronto in 2009), Fulbright Program (2002-2003 and 2006) and DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) 1984-1989.

Wed. 3 October 2012, 7:00pm meeting start, DESS

Speaker: Michael Grunwell

Title of PresentationDragonflies and Damselflies of Qatar

Speaker bio:  Michael Grunwell graduated from Bangor University in Wales in 1983 with a degree in zoology, and worked for British Airways and in IT, before training as a teacher ten years ago. He taught in Istanbul for a year and has taught at Al Khor International School since 2007.
A renowned authority on local bird species, Michael’s interest in ornithology goes back to his youth when he spent long summers at Filey on the Yorkshire coast, observing sea birds and migrants. He retired from UK twitching in 2000 and has recently become an avid world bird lister, with trips to Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and Tanzania and a projected trip to Uganda. His current world list now stands at 2797 species.
Besides the birds of Qatar, Michael has an interest in dragonflies which dates back to his time at university, and he has seen and photographed all the species on the current Qatar list.